“Just do it”, said Gabriel Okara

Renowned Poet, Gabriel Okara .

Whenever I tell people I once had a conversation with Gabriel Okara, they act shocked. It’s almost like they think a guy like me could never have crossed paths with the legendary poet. If only they knew that legendary poet was once my neighbour. And that’s long before I even knew he was famous or cared anything for poetry. But I did meet the legendary poet and I have the trophies to prove it ( referring to my poems that is. hehe).Anyways, I’ll tell you of my meetings with him.

I’d just been introduced to the beauty of poetry after I watched two movies given to me by a friend and neighbour; Dead Poets Society featuring Robin Williams and GreenCard featuring Gérard Depardieu. The movies awakened a strong desire to write poems after that. And since I was a rookie , it seemed expedient that  I get some professional advice on writing good poems. So I went over to Dr Okara’s home and asked him for advice. He was more than helpful. He even went as far as editing a line in one of my poems ( a line which grabs  attention any time I show it to my friends).

Apathy set in not long after. I slowed down on my writing, thinking I lacked the skill and knowledge to write anything meaningful. So I thought maybe a book on writing poems was what I need to turn me into a Maestro. Dr Okara didn’t share the same view. In fact when I ran into him in the estate a few days later, he told me something that changed my paradigm about the path to excellence in poetry.

“Young man how is the writing going” he asked.  I told him I had slowed down a bit, looking for a book on writing better poems and if he had any I’d be glad if he could lend it to me. He switched to mentor-mode and said to me, “I’ll tell you a story”.  “Many years ago when I began to write poems consistently, I had a friend who admired my writings. He thought he felt inspired to write poems and asked if he could borrow one of my books so he could read it and learn how to write good poems. So he borrowed the book and guess what?”. What, I asked.” It’s been many years since then; he is still reading that book and hasn’t written one line of poetry. So what am I saying? If you want to write poems, go ahead and write poems. The way to write better poems is to keep writing. You don’t necessarily need a book to teach you how to write poems. Just keep writing and you’ll get better at it. In other words , he was saying, Just do it. So I took the old man’s advice and truly, I got better at the craft.

Come to think of it, that rule applies to more than just poetry. It’s a universal law of progress. I’ve noticed from my network marketing experience that most people spend way too much time trying to get a PhD before deciding to pursue their craft. Truth is, you can’t learn it all in one day. Life is an on-the-job- training.  You get better as you get going. Some things can’t be learned in school because the map is not the territory.  If you want to be it, you’ve got to Just do it!

– Nigerian Philosopher

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The illusion of choice.

The Merovingian at the table with Morpheous , Neyo, Trinity and Persephone

Morpheous saying, “everything begins with a choice”

The Merovingian’s introduction to the concept of “cause and effect”

Mystery lady who’s the central character in the analogy of cause and effect.

Merovingian:  You are here because you were sent here. You were told to come here and you obeyed.(Sneering giggle) It is of course the way of all things. You see there is only one constant, one universal. It is the only real truth. Causality – action reaction, cause and effect.

Morpheous: Everything begins with a choice.

Merovingian:  No, wrong. Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without.
Look there, at that woman. My God just look at her…affecting everyone around here…so obvious, so bourgeois, so boring. But wait, watch. You see, I have sent her dessert; very special dessert. I wrote it myself. It’s starts so simply….each line of the program creating an effect just like…poetry. First a rush, heat, the heart flutters, you can see it now, yes? She does not understand why. Is it the wine?  No. What is it then? What is the reason? Soon it doesn’t matter. Soon the why and the reason are gone and all that matters is the feeling itself. And this is the nature of the universe, we struggle against it, we try to deny it but of course it is pretense. It is a lie. Beneath our poised appearance the truth is that we are completely out of control.

(Inhales)Causality, there is no escape from it. We are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it. To understand Why. Why is what separates us from them, you from me? Why is the only real source of power, without it you are powerless. And this is how you come to me? Without why, without power? Another link in the chain.

___________________________

This is one of my favourite scenes from the Matrix Reloaded movie. It features

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a conversation between Neo, Morpheus and The Merovingian. I learned a powerful lesson from that dialogue; one that brought about a heightened sense of awareness that most humans don’t have.

In this scene Morpheus asserts that he, Neo and Trinity came to see The Merovingian of their own free will, implying that their choice was independent of any influence. But The Merovingian disagrees and insists that they, like all humans, have not made that choice free of any external influence. In fact he goes on to state that they are simply obeying instructions and their choice, while seeming to be a cause, is simply an effect. He then draws their attention to a lady sitting a few tables away and creates and analogy to explain the law of cause and effect (Choice being the effect).

The analogy begins with a very attractive lady sitting by the table in the company of two men. She receives a very “special” desert sent to her by The Merovingian; an appetizing chocolate cake drugged with some aphrodisiac. The unsuspecting lady takes a slice of the cake and seconds later begins to notice a strange aura overwhelming her. She wonders about this strange feeling and keeps questioning the source. Slowly the sensations build up until she is completely overcome by lusts. At that point she stops questioning the source of the desire and just chooses to yield to it.

The Merovingian likened Morpheus, Neo and Trinity’s choice to visit him to the choice of that lady who succumbed to her passion. He implies that while their choice may seem to have been a cause, it was nothing more than an effect caused by an influence that inspired their decision to come to him.

In conclusion The Merovingian maintains that no man is free of the deciding influence that causes us to choose to act in a certain way (effect). And that the only path to peace and individual power is to understand why we do the things we do. The Merovingian made a lot of sense to me. Since I have been a student of the mind and human behavior, it wasn’t hard to understand what he meant.

Most of us would like to think that our actions, thoughts and words begin with our independent choice. But the truth of the matter is that we are all influenced to make certain choices. In some cases, that choice was subconsciously made for us. A very good example is the power of advertising on consumer behaviour. Manufacturers of consumer goods have been influencing our buying decision for ages. We may never have bought a Blackberry phone, a soft drink or a pair shoes if the adverts didn’t say they were the coolest things in the world to buy. We find ourselves investing in things even when we know it doesn’t make economic sense to make such investments at that time. The men with financial and media power manipulated us, the powerless masses, into choosing a line of action. This also applies to other areas of our life like the choice of a mate, choice of a religion, your reaction to a circumstance, your perception of life, your values, your appetites, your fears and even your sexual preference. These are all subject to the dominating influence in our lives. We may have been told repeatedly that marrying from a certain tribe or race is risky and so we decide that people from that tribe or race are not qualified candidates for marriage. A lady may conclude that the male gender is undependable. That belief did not start with a choice but with the influence of an unpleasant past experience of hers or others, whether or not it is based on truth.

We may not always be manipulated into choosing a line of action. But a lot of times if we look critically at our decisions, we may realize that our choices were actually made for us by some external influence which we yielded to and carried in our heads, THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE.

Click on the image above.